Michigan U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra is down in the polls – in some cases by a lot. Two-term incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow commanded a 13 point lead in a poll conducted by The Detroit News Oct. 27 to 29.
Hoekstra visited campus Oct. 26 for a town hall meeting at the Dow Leadership Center. Talking with The Collegian before the meeting, he acknowledged his campaign is behind, noting the difficulty in defeating an incumbent senator.
“Beating a 12-year incumbent is hard, so what you do is you begin with a plan and the plan says we’re going to peak on election day,” Hoekstra said. “That may be the only day we’re ahead and that’s the plan that we’re executing.
“I think we’re pretty much on plan.”
Born in the Netherlands, Hoekstra’s family immigrated to the United States when he was three-years old. He graduated from Hope College in 1975 with a B.A. in political science and went on to the Univeristy of Michigan, where he earned an MBA. After leaving academia, he found employment at Herman Miller, Inc., a major furniture manufacturer in Zeeland, Mich. Over the next 15 years, Hoekstra would work his way up to Vice President of Marketing.
Hoekstra entered politics in 1992 when he decided to challenge Guy Vander Jagt, a congressman of 26 years, for Michigan’s 2nd District U.S. House seat. He defeated Vander Jagt by six points in the GOP primary and held the seat for the next 18 years.
Hoekstra said he entered politics for four reason: he thought D.C. wasn’t doing things right, that the incumbent was part of the problem, that he himself could be part of the solution, and that he could defeat the incumbent in an election.
“Those four things are almost exactly the same four things as right now,” he said. “I think the direction in D.C. is awful, and I clearly believe Debbie Stabenow
is part of the problem.”
He left the House in 2009 to run for governor of Michigan. Rick Snyder won and Hoekstra finished second.
An advocate for school choice, Hoekstra joined The Heritage Foundation in 2011 as a distinguished fellow, concentrating on education reform in particular. Hoekstra was 1 of 20 Republicans to vote against No Child Left Behind and a decade later is still critical of George W. Bush’s education reform legislation.
“Bottom Line: it was a huge expansion of the federal government into K to 12 education,” Hoekstra said. “I thought it was terrible policy.”
He said he believes parents should have more control over their kids’ education.
“Whether its education tax credits, whether its vouchers or whatever,” he said. “Basically, we need to empower parents to move their kids to whatever school they believe will give them a quality education.”
For additional policy positions, Hoekstra held a 100 percent rating by the National Right to Life Committee during his last term in the House, holds a 92 percent by the National Rifle Association in his current race, and is a strong advocate for tax reform.
While acknowledging no tax system could be perfect (“When you got the government digging into your pockets, you’re not going to find a system that is fair to everyone involved.”), he said he would support a number of other tax reforms – including Herman Cain’s 9 – 9‑9 plan – over the current system.
Although down in the polls, Hoekstra said his campaign has gotten some breaks lately. He said presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent surge has been beneficial to his campaign – both in voter support and campaign donations.
“This is crunch time,” Hoekstra said. “We basically go from now until 8 p.m. on Nov. 6 and you don’t take a break.
“This is where you put it all out and that’s what we’re doing.”